Ski Setup

Setting up skis (especially Slalom Skis) can be a like a black art and has left many great skiers stumped!  This article has been put together as an introduction to this ‘art’ for both Slalom and Trick skis, but also includes some slightly more technical tips for those that want to dip a toe into the crazy world of slalom ski fin adjustments! There are however a few things to bear in mind before you start – unfortunately many learned the hard way:

  • Always check all screws before you ride a new ski!  The time you forget is the time it bites you!
  • Make sure your ski is set to factory settings before your first ride.  You never know if the ski was adjusted since it left the factory.
  • Higher-end skiers should always check fin settings – it has been known for skis to come out incorrectly adjusted.
  • If you don’t know how to check fin settings, get your local store or coach to give it a check.
  • Beware stores that do not use calipers to set up the ski.  You can’t set up a ski by eyeballing the fin settings or using the markings on the fin itself.


Slalom Ski Setup:

Nowadays with new slalom skis you can almost take them out of the box, mount bindings and ski on them.  Most of the time the fin settings are in the right ballpark.  However for a second-hand ski, you may want to check the fin and binding settings.

  • For skis with inserts, set the bindings to the middle hole.  This is normally the factory default.
  • The rear binding should also go into middle holes.  If you find you cannot get your foot aligned in the back binding or it feels like its putting too much pressure on the knee, you can twist the binding on many skis to reduce pressure.  Note this does change the way the ski works slightly.

Assuming you know how to adjust your fin, you can try the following adjustments to fix common problems.  Just remember to either measure your settings or mark the fin with a sharp pencil and only make a tiny adjustment… it can make a huge difference to the way the ski works!


Issue 1:If the tip of the ski is diving in on the on-side turn and grabbing, the front or tip of the ski is riding too low:

  • Raise the front of the fin (careful, this controls the off-side too!)/
  • Move the fin forward.
  • Straighten the rear-kicker (if twisted).
  • Move the back boot back one hole.
  • Move both boots back.

Issue 2: Running over the rope on the on-side turns.

  • As per Issue 1.

Issue 3: Falling over after the buoy – i.e. the ski lets you sink into a hole.

  • If this is happening on the on-side – see Issue 1.
  • For the off-side:
    • Move the front binding forward.
    • Add wing angle.
    • Add some tip to the fin.
    • Decrease depth of the fin.

Issue 4: The ski is bouncin or jumping off the wake going to the on side turn and feels unstable.

  • Move your front boot forward.
  • Increase angle of the wing.
  • Add some tip to the fin.
  • Decrease depth of the fin.

Issue 5: Struggling to stay wide or free of the boat when waiting for the gates.

  • Take some tip out of the fin.
  • Increase depth of the fin.
  • Decrease the wing angle.
  • Move the fin forward in the block.

Issue 6: The ski will not slow down for the gate turn-in.

  • Add some tip to the fin.
  • Decrease depth of fin.
  • Move the fin backwards in the block.
  • Increase wing angle.

Issue 7: The ski does seem to finish the turn, or turns slowly on your off-side.

  • Move the front binding forward.
  • Increase wing angle.
  • Add some tip to the fin.
  • Decrease the depth of the fin.
  • Move the fin backwards in the block.

Issue 8: The ski digs in too early on the off-side.  It feels like you are early, but you get pushed inside the buoy, or the ski feels like it slows down and drags you onto the tip.

  • Move the front binding back.
  • Decrease wing angle.
  • Remove some tip from the fin.
  • Increase the depth of the fin
  • Move the fin forward in the block.

Issue 9: The ski stopping on the off-side turn. See Issue 8.


Issue 10: The tail of the ski lifting and/or blowing out on the off-side turn. See issue 8.

Issue 11: The ski feels slow or sticky into your off-side turn and doesn’t roll up onto edge properly.  See Issue 7.

Issue 12: The ski is bogging out of the off-side turn. See Issue 7.

Issue 13: The ski not turning the off-side. See Issue 7.

Issue 14: The inability to get wide.  See Issue 8.

Issue 15: The ski hunting while waiting to turn in for the gates. See Issue 7.

Trick Skis:

Trick skis are slightly harder as they often come without inserts.  However the general rule of thumb is to mount the front binding so your inside ankle bone is on the centre line of the ski.  Make sure the binding is aligned side-to-side and screw it down!

The rear-kicker is a bit harder.  I would advise most skiers simply buy a binding mounted on a plate.  Reflex (us), Quantum (Masterline) and D3 sell these and they make mounting way easier.  Plates also offer the opportunity to use some of the modern dual-sided tapes such as the 3M VHB tape for mounting.  This means no holes drilled to weaken the ski, plus you can adjust the plate location relatively easily.  Don’t forget to prep the ski with alcohol wipes first for a good bond. Mounting is fairly simple.

Aim for approximately 1-2cm between the back of the front plate and the rear kicker and to have your foot at 45 degrees (or slightly more ).  Align your foot so your toes / heel does not hang over the edge of the ski.

  • For a hand-ski, you can move the front binding forward 2 holes (1/2 inch) to give you better lift off the wake.  This is especially useful for Flips.
  • For toes, if the ski feel skittish and you struggle falling backwards on some tricks, try moving the binding forward one hole.

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